Perhaps you think Romeo died at the climax of Romeo and Juliet? Nope. He just took a sleeping potion, and when he awakes a few centuries later, he suddenly finds himself in Brooklyn, surrounded by dames, dons, and some of the world’s most recognizable Italian melodies.
You just thought he was dead! Romeo, that is. No, he didn’t die when he drank that poison at the end of Romeo and Juliet. Because it wasn’t poison at all; just a sleeping potion that put him out for a few centuries. And when Romeo awakens, he finds himself in 1960 Brooklyn, chasing a girl he believes is his beloved Juliet. But no, it’s not Juliet—it’s Bernadette, the beautiful, sassy daughter of a local mobster. Romeo finds himself aligned with the rival crime family and… poor Romeo! It seems he’s got what the therapists would call, “a pattern.” But unlike Shakespeare’s account of the tale, Romeo and Bernadette barrels along with dames, dons and dizzy comedy to a happy ending, accompanied by some of the world’s most recognizable Italian melodies, famous from movies, television and many, many pizzerias.
ROMEO AND BERNADETTE Book and Lyrics by MARK SALTZMAN Music Adapted, Arranged and Orchestrated by BRUCE W. COYLE Originally produced by Coconut Grove Playhouse and Paper Mill Playhouse, The State Theatre of New Jersey
ROMEO (21-30; tenor, strong high A, falsetto or strong B): the Shakespearean character himself! Dashing, passionate, courtly, irresistibly handsome, swashbuckling, innocent, in pursuit of Bernadette. (“A World Away”)
BERNADETTE PENZA (21-25; strong singer, New York street accent, good comic skills. High Belt with strong mix. Strong belt to E, the money note at the end of her solo, “One Tender Word.”): Mafia Princess. Sexy, tough, vulgar, funny, spoiled, temperamental, with more tenderness in her heart than she realizes.
TITO TITONE (21-30; tenor, strong high B-flat): a studly thug, and Bernadette’s cold, domineering fiancee. Good singer, good comedian. New York street accent..
DINO DEL CANTO/BROOKLYN GUY (21-30; lyric baritone. Basically to F with a couple of growled jazz high A-flats at the end of his solo “Boom! In Love”): slick, smug, charming young mob upstart, streety and sexy. Romeo’s friend in New York.
DONNA DUBACEK / BROOKLYN GIRL (21-25; belt and mix, belt to C above middle C): Bernadette’s friend and maid of honor. Tough talking, blunt, pretty, earthy, with a superior attitude.
SAL PENZA (40-55; baritone to F, with optional A in unison with Tito in “Non La Famiglia”): Bernadette’s father. Funny, lovable, a down-to-earth, up-from-the-streets Tony Soprano style mob chief.
CAMILLE PENZA (40-50; mezzo, to C above middle C but with an operatic voice to high G): Bernadette’s mother. A stylish Brooklyn mob wife with high class aspirations and affectations. Good singer, good comedian.
CHARACTER MAN (30-45; lyric baritone): strong singer and an exceptional character comedian to play both male and female characters. He plays: ENZO ALIRIA: a self-loving Pavarotti-style opera singer, sings to high F. LOUIE: a nervous airport immigration agent, to G. ARDEN THE FLORIST: flamboyant and warm-hearted to G. FATHER KENEELY: well-meaning Irish priest to F-sharp. VIOLA DUKE: a cruel tyrant of a dance instructor. Non-singing. ROZ: a gravelly-voiced dressmaker. Non-singing.
(Another option is to have these roles played by ensemble/chorus members “LIPS” (35-50; character baritone to F-sharp): gruff, all-business, (but surprisingly heartfelt) tough-guy bodyguard. New York accent.
DON DEL CANTO/AIRPORT SUPERVISOR (baritone to high G): Don Del Canto is Dino’s elegant, aristocratic old country mob father. Refined Italian accent.
Keyboard 1: Piano/Conductor (Synthesizer)
Keyboard 2 (Synthesizer)
Reed (Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute)
Guitar (Acoustic with pick-up/Hollow Body Jazz Electric Guitar)
Mandolin with pick-up
Bass (Acoustic Upright Bass, Electric Jazz Bass)